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U.S., Washington State Must Pay for Districts' Legal Costs

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The State of Washington and the federal government have been ordered to pay $474,000 in attorneys' fees for losing an antibusing suit that was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last June.

U.S. District Judge Donald Voorhees of Seattle last week ordered that the fees be paid to the Seattle School District and several civil-rights groups that participated in the case.

The award is believed to represent the first time a local government unit has collected legal fees from its parent state.

All but $75,000 of the bill must be picked up by the state, which had fought since 1978 to defend the constitutionality of Initiative 350, an amendment to the state constitution enacted by referendum in response to a desegregation plan adopted voluntarily the previous year by the Seattle school board.

The Pasco and Tacoma school dis-tricts also had locally initiated desegregation plans.

The amendment would have prohibited busing for desegregation purposes except by federal-court order. It was found unconstitutional at the federal district and appellate levels and by the Supreme Court.

The bulk of the award, $305,000, was assigned to the Seattle district, which led the legal fight to invalidate the measure. More than $100,000 was granted to the American Civil Liberties Union, an intervenor on the side of the school district. The remainder of the award was to be distributed to other plaintiffs, including the Tacoma district.

The federal government was ordered to pay half the cost accrued at the Supreme Court because the Justice Department, under the Reagan Administration, switched sides and joined the state when the argument reached that level.

--Susan Goldberg

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